Riverland farmers are facing major damage of their annual crops, as they assess the impact of last week’s storm.

Key points:

  • The Riverland community is still cleaning up farms, streets and businesses after a freak storm last week
  • Assessors are out on farms to uncover the full extent of the damage, and how much financial support will be needed
  • It’s another blow for farmers just before harvest, who have battled droughts and other natural disasters in recent years

The storm struck last Thursday, bringing winds over 100 kilometres per hour, heavy rain, and hail in parts.

There are concerns that significant losses could impact on the mental health of the community as farmers had been preparing for a good harvest. 

Ryan Arnold operates The Arnold Brothers’ farm along with his siblings, growing grapes and citrus in Pyap, near Loxton.

The orchard’s netting — an insurance policy for such storms — was torn to shreds in parts, while on other areas of the farm it survived.

“This structure is about 20 hectares. Most of the netting has gone, which is mainly from force of wind. I drove out Saturday and said to the kids we could have a Halloween party because it looks like spider webs draped all over the place,” Mr Arnold said.

Netting to protect crops shows tears and damage after storm.

The Arnold Brother’s netting was badly damaged in some parts.(ABC News: Eliza Berlage)

Minister for Primary Industries, David Basham toured affected areas the Adelaide Hills to the Riverland.

Insurance assessors and the Department of Primary Industries have been combing farms to calculate the exact numbers of crops lost, and the financial support they would need.

“Whether it be glass houses smashed down in the Adelaide plains, or this netting here, really had to actually put those costs together as well as the damage to fruit,” the Minister said.

There are reports of significant crop losses in some parts, while certain crops have been spared.

Two men assess a damaged net above crops with a cloudy but blue sky above.

Minister for Primary Industries, David Basham, assesses the damage at the Arnold Brothers’ farm near Pyap.(ABC News: Eliza Berlage)

“We’ll have people out on the ground making sure that we are getting those assessments done,” Minister Basham said.

More than a quarter of Australia’s almonds are grown in the Riverland, and the peak body is nervously waiting for an assessment of the damage.

“There’s been some tree losses, and certainly the potential of the crop in some of those areas is going to be down,” CEO of the Almond Board of Australia, Tim Jackson, said.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking for those people to get to the point where it was looking like we were gonna have a record crop for the industry but I don’t think that’ll happen now,” he said.

Towns continue to clean up

A tree lies uprooted, and blocking a road just before sunset.

Trees fell all over the Riverland, like this one at Berri.(Supplied: Monica McKinnon)

The areas of Loxton, Waikerie and Moorook were hit hard by the storm. But the severe parts of the storm were patchy – some received 50mm or rain, while others just 3.5mm.

“Gee where it hit bad, like the back of Lowbank and Moorook-Kingston, there’s one area through there that looks like a bushfire’s gone through. The leaves are just belted off the trees there with the hail,” Mayor of Loxton-Waikerie District Council, Leon Stasinowsky, said.

“As farmers, you’re doing all that you can under difficult circumstances and then this comes on top of it, it’s pretty demoralising and shattering,” he said.

Fallen trees have been the main cause of damage in towns, and pine trees at Loxton Primary School, which have been standing for between 60 and 100 years, were not spared.

A large pine tree lies uprooted in a school ground, laying on its side under a blue sky.

Decades old pine trees at Loxton Primary School came down in the storm. (Supplied: JMA Engineering)

“I popped my head out at one point in time and it sounded like gunshots, and I was thinking that was probably the tress falling. It was just quite horrific,” said Principal of Loxton Primary, Sally Wright.

“Two big pine trees came down on the oval. Their roots came right out of the ground,” Ms Wright said.

The Mayor of Loxton-Waikerie has urged the community to support each other

“I’m telling people to look out for their neighbours out there. And if they can help, give them a hand and try and get them through these tough times,” Mayor Stasinowsky said.

Posted , updated 

Netting ‘like Halloween cobwebs’ as storm cleanup shocks Riverland farmers
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